Friday, January 23, 2009

The Last Day

Okay, it is ridiculous that it is now February and I'm still trying to finish blogs from the Christmas holidays, so we are gong to do the condensed version. Well, maybe it didn't end up being too condensed.

Below is a picture taken 14 years ago at this mining town out by the Superstition Mountains that I take Anita to each time she comes. You can see how small Preston and Jip are plus all the other kids. (click on the picture and you can get a close up of it) Well, Anita wanted to go back to that same mining town to take Jip's picture in the same place that she has previously, so on their last day here we headed back out there.Here is everyone in front of the big saguaro in the middle of the "town". But this wasn't the one she was looking for. We walked all over looking for that certain cactus with no luck. We took time out to watch the "gun fight" in the middle of the street.
And then found a substitute cactus to take pictures with. Wouter was the bravest of all and he hugged the saguaro.
Everyone else just stood in front of it like Jeske or
tried to jump. Years ago when Jip was just almost three, Anita had asked him how tall he was going to be and he jumped as high as he could and said, "This high!" while she took his picture in front of the giant saguaro. So everyone played, "How tall are you going to be?" Here's Jip
And Maxim
And my three kids who had a really hard time all jumping at the same time.Do over - one, two, three, jump!
One, two, three, try it again! Oh well.
Finally Anita and I tried and we had just about as hard a time as Lonica, Raquel and Preston did, but we have an excuse, we are older!
For dinner that night we made Anita cook and make us a Dutch dinner of hutspot.
One thing we didn't lack over the holidays was food or hungry people. We had plenty of both and had a great time trying and sharing Dutch and American foods.
Here is the hutspot. Yumm
After dinner all the boys went to Bass Pro Shop to check it out and play at the shooting gallery.
Jeske's last request was a little car but Rob refused her for once and they didn't take it with them the next morning when they left.
Everyone had to come home and pack up because they had to be to the airport at 5:00 am for the long flight home. We hated to see them go and we all knew we had had a holiday that we would never forget. Thanks Creemers and de Vries for coming and sharing your vacation with us. It was GREAT!!!

New Year's Eve and Day

Anita treated us to another Dutch tradition on New Year's Eve by making us oliebollens (translated oil balls). She fried them out back on our grill which I'm quite sure they don't do in the Netherlands. The sticky dough is filled with currents and after they are fried you sprinkle them with powdered sugar. Their name is misleading because they are very good. We enjoyed sharing this New Year's tradition with them.

The rest of the day was spent playing games and eating; every one's favorite pastimes. That night all the kids went ice skating with our ward and the adults went out to eat at P.F. Chang's.
None of us are great party people, so we watched the New Year come in on the TV with all those in Time Square and then headed to bed.

New Year's Day we planned a barbecue and invited Garth's Uncle Paul and his wife, Judy and Mrs. Cooper, Judy's mother. We started early in the all day getting the baby back ribs and pulled pork roasting. Lonica made some great green chili cornbread and Judy brought coleslaw and Paul's famous salsa. Needless to say, we had plenty of food! I appreciated all the help I got from everyone and especially from Scott. I really miss having him around when we barbecue.

We also planned to have a white elephant exchange and I'd told Anita to have everyone in her family bring something for it. They were intrigued by a game where everyone brought something they wanted to get rid of and wrapped it up nice. During the day everyone had snuck into the office to wrap their "gift".
Here are pictures of our group while instructions and rules are given. You can see the excitement building in their faces.
Wouter and Garth look as though they can hardly control themselves. We actually had a really good time opening the wonderful white elephant gifts and "stealing" them from each other.
We were blessed with things like stuffed bears, really small sunglasses, pictures of Lonica, bobble heads, Corvette pins, world maps. But I ended up with the most coveted gift - gloves that could peel a potato in 8 seconds! After the game, Preston had to run get a potato so we could try them out.
As everyone gave it a shot, none of us able to peel the potato, let alone do it in 8 seconds. So if you see the infomercial for these gloves, resist the temptation and don't buy them. As amazing as they sound you WILL be disappointed.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Day 4 - Zion's and Las Vegas

We woke up in this beautiful setting on Monday morning and after a quick breakfast, headed back to Zions for another hike.
Ever since we had first hiked the Narrows I had wanted to come back and hike Angel's Landing. Luckily for me one of the few trails that was opened was Angle's Landing although not all the way to the top. Here you can see the first switch backs we had to climb. We lost Garth before he got to this point.
As you can see, it was another beautiful day even though we were hiking in the snow it was warm. This was the point that we lost Rob, Jip and Preston.
These short and steep switch backs were amazing the way the snow covered them.
Maxim beat us all to this point but started down before we could get a picture of us all.
Here is another great shot of Anita and I. It almost looks as though we have be cropped into this picture.
At this point the trail narrowed and you had to use chains to pull yourself up with and when we got to the next small set of switch backs, I lost Anita, Wouter and Jeske.
I hiked up to another amazing point where I could tell that I still had a long way to go (when hiking it always seems as though you are almost there then you top out and realize you have further to go) and too many people waiting for me. So another hiker and I took pictures of each other and started the decent together. While the trail was definitely narrower up here, the snow gave you a false sense of security and I think it will be really interesting to hike it again when there is no snow.
Just a couple more photos of this beautiful canyon covered in white.

From Zions, we started our longest day of driving thus far as we headed to Las Vegas. Once we hit the city we hit traffic jams due to construction. Garth got off the freeway and when we got closer to the Strip we hit more traffic jams. Las Vegas is just one big traffic jam day and night!

We were staying at the Venetian and had quite a time just trying to find the entrance. Once we got out of the van and knew we didn't have to drive anymore we were thrilled. Then we walked into the hotel and looked around and we were even more thrilled.
Check out our room that looked down on to the swimming pool.
After a little rest we headed out on to the strip. Here is an outside photo of the Venetian.
Our first stop was the Mirage and we managed to get there just minutes before the volcano erupted so we stood around with all the other tourists to wait.
Here Maxim is pretending to be a Oriental tourist with his peace sign.
We were all rewarded and warmed when the volcano erupted.
From the Mirage, we went to see the pirate show at Treasure Island which has always been one of our favorites. We waited a half hour or so and we were so disappointed. It is longer the family entertainment it once was. The pirates now fight the sexy sirens who sink their ship and bewitch them. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.
At that point we just walked down the strip looking at all the hotels. Earlier in the evening we had talked about getting some Italian ice, since it is a favorite of Rob's, and when we were in Caesar's Palace I saw a store so we headed over to have some. They had cups displayed of the various sizes and I chose the smallest size and Rob started ordering his family's in the next smallest size. There weren't any prices displayed and when I walked around the counter to pay for mine I couldn't believe that it was $14! And then I noticed that the size Rob was buying multiples of was $17!! I went and told him how much they were and he didn't order any more but he still ended up paying $92 for Italian ice! The price kind of took the sweetness out of the ice.
As I said before one of the nice things of going right after Christmas was seeing all the decorations still up in the hotels. The Bellagio's decorations were absolutely outstanding. Jeske is standing in front of just a few of the many huge presents and ornaments they had on display.

After checking out the inside of the hotel, we went and watched the wonderful fountain show in the frontand thought about the Ocean's Eleven movie.
From there we finished off with New York, New York and then headed back to the Venetian because our legs were tired and it was after 1:00 am.
As we were walking to our room Preston talked Garth and I into walking down to the Encore that had just opened the day before to get him a chip as a souvenir. He was sure that their chips would be really special. I can't remember when my legs and feet had been so tired but we decided to go. We walked though the Wynn which is connected to the Encore and then had to find the cashier cages to purchase a chip. While Garth was buying a chip I thought I'd take his picture for future blackmail threats, but as I was about to take the picture the security guard came up and I quickly took a picture of the beautiful mosaic floor - or so I told him. Actually they were very beautiful. The chip on the other hand wasn't special at all and the ones at the Venetian were much nicer. It was after 2:00 am that we finally drug ourselves back to our room where we slept in as late as possible.
We headed back to Mesa the next day and we were all very happy with all the sites we had seen. The trip had turned out perfectly.

Day 3 - Antalope Canyon and Zion's

After reading several blogs and talking to the clerk at the hotel, we decided not to pay the $20 to $35 tour fee for Antelope Canyon and to drive out to the check in station ourselves and just pay the $6.00 Navajo permit fee.

Upon arriving at the in check station we noticed lots of vehicles but no one in either office (typical of Navajos). We saw two vehicles take off down the dirt road and after waiting a little while, we decided to follow them down the road with the sign that said, "No unauthorized vehicles allowed beyond this point." Since Antelope Canyon is on the Navajo Reservation, we didn't really know what to expect.

The road was down a dry sand wash and we were afraid if we stopped we would get stuck in the deep sand or that we would be ambushed by Indians coming over the hill because we weren't an "authorized vehicle". We made it to the entrance of the canyon and it is amazing what is inside this little crack in the Earth and that this beautiful slot canyon was made by just water and wind.
We noticed that there were a few tour groups there and several other vehicles but couldn't see anyone we could pay our permit fee to, so we headed into this breath taking canyon. As we all oohed and awed over the walls we separated from one another.
Anita and I lagged behind the others taking pictures and all the sudden we had a Native American come up to us and ask how many people we were with and what vehicle we had come in. He then informed us that we needed to pay him $35 a person and leave right now before we got into trouble. We explained that we didn't have any money and would have to find our husbands who were way a head of us. He followed us through the canyon as we tried to slowly meander through trying take pictures and he kept pushing us telling us not to take pictures and that we needed to hurry before we got into trouble. I kept wondering what kind of trouble we would get into and just who was going to get us since no one was around.
When we got to the other side, Garth and Rob had been approached by another Indian tour guide for money. They told him they would pay and then he said he didn't have his book so they had to wait. After we taking some pictures on the other side of the canyon, we lost both of our "tour guides".
Here are a few more pictures of this amazing place. The light is the best in the summer because the sun shines directly down into the canyon but even in winter it is was still beautiful.
Anita and Jip
When we got back to the other side, all the tours were gone - no one to pay our money to - so we headed back to the check in station. At the check in station we parked and waited but no one was around and no one asked for any money so we left and headed for Glenn Canyon Dam. Excited after the adventure we had had on the Navajo reservation and the awesomeness of Antelope Canyon, we couldn't wait to see what the rest of the day had in store.
The fountain out in front of the Glen Canyon Dam's visitor center was covered in ice and of course the boys couldn't leave it alone.
We headed across southern Utah to Zion's National Park and once again the landscape was covered in snow from the recent storm.
The boys made fun of Anita and I because we kept saying how beautiful it was and made Garth stop the van so we could take pictures or run back up the road to take pictures of frozen waterfalls. Winter had made this normally beautiful land, beautiful in a completely different way.
The winding road down into the park was slick, treacherous and slow going but we made it without incident and were awed by the beauty we encountered. After a quick stop at the visitor's center for some souvenirs and some hiking advice we headed into the park.
Even though it was late in the day we decided to hike up the narrows as far as we could go. Years ago our family had backpacked down the narrows, spending a night in the middle of it. By the time we reached the end we were dirty, wet and tired. This year hiking up was completely different, no packs to carry or streams to wade through. The waterfalls were frozen as they ran off the cliffs and the snow was so deep we didn't dare venture of the trail...
and it looked like a winter wonderland. There were very few people, other than the Indian ladies in their sandals and sarongs which we thought was really weird, and all you could hear was the Virgin River. As you can see the snow was plentiful and deep.
Since we were at the end of the canyon where the walls began to narrow, we wouldn't be seeing the sun on this hike. While it was cold, the walking warmed us with the exception for the occasionally hit from a snowball, heaven only knows where they would have been coming from. We had a great time hiking, talking and enjoying nature. It was hard to believe that we were in the same place that my family had backpacked out of years before. We finally got to the point were we couldn't go any further and had to turn around. As we headed out of the park towards Springdale we had a great view of the sun setting on the snow covered cliffs of Zion's. I think this park is aptly named.
One more shot of this beautiful place before we went in search of our hotel, dinner and the famous Bumbleberry pie all in Springdale, Utah.